Food Service (US English) or catering industry (British English) defines those businesses, institutions, and companies responsible for any meal prepared outside the home. This industry includes restaurants, school and hospital cafeterias, catering operations, and many other formats.
The companies that supply foodservice operators are called foodservice distributors. Foodservice distributors sell goods like small wares (kitchen utensils) and foods. Some companies manufacture products in both consumer and foodservice versions. The consumer version usually comes in individual-sized packages with elaborate label design for retail sale. The foodservice version is packaged in a much larger industrial size and often lacks the colorful label designs of the consumer version.
Foodservice sales to restaurants and institutions are estimated to be approximately $400 billion, about equal with consumer sales of foods through grocery outlets.
The foodservice industry is one of the largest employers in the United States. Over 805,360 people are currently working as servers and managers alone. 59% of these workers are under the age of 30, and over 66% hold only a high school diploma or less.
Counter service is a form of service in restaurants, pubs, and bars where food or drinks are ordered at the counter. Counter service is sometimes also referred to as a "bar service," such as used for "juice bar" or in the case of pubs and bars where the counter is also called the bar. Customers may take-out the food, or carry it to a table, or eat at the bar, using chairs or stools provided for the purpose. Counter service is compared with table service where service is provided at the table. With counter service, the customer generally pays before consuming the food or drink. Some fast food restaurants offer only counter service while table service is the common form in most restaurants. For pubs and bars, bar service is the norm in both Ireland and the United Kingdom whereas table service is the norm in Continental Europe.
Table service is food service served to the customer's table by waiters and waitressess, also known as "servers". Table service is common in most restaurants, while for some fast food restaurants counter service is the common form. For pubs and bars, counter service is the norm in the United Kingdom. With table service, the customer generally pays at the end of meal. Various methods of table service can be provided. See, for instance, silver service. In recent years, restaurants have began to train their servers using e-learning programs in an effort to lower training costs.
Gueridon service is a form of food service provided by restaurants to their customers. This type of service encompasses preparing food (primarily salads, main dishes such as beef stroganoff, or desserts) in direct view of the guests, using a "gueridon". A gueridon typically consists of a trolley that is equipped to prepare, cook and serve food. There is a gas hob, chopping board, cutlery drawer, cold store (depending on the trolley type) and general working area.
- Bottle service, which typically includes a reserved table
- Dietary management, or supervision of foodservice operations
- Pizza delivery, a common type of food service
- Waiting staff, a person who provides table service
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